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Jagannath Puri

Jagannath Puri is one of the four dhams of Bharat. It is on the east coast, in the state of Orissa. The mandir is of Jagannathji (Shri Krishna), with the murtis of his brother, Balram, and sister, Subhadra.

There are several stories about the origin of the mandir. King Indradyumna of Malwa performed many Ashwamedh Yagnas. He then constructed a mandir in Utkalpradesh. However, he remained anxious about the consecration of the murtis. Which material should be used for them? In such deep thought he often forgot to attend to his kingdom’s affairs. Once he performed Bhagwan’s pujan exactly according to the Panchratra shastras. That night Bhagwan appeared in his dream and blessed him, “Do not worry. Go to the seashore in the morning. You will see a mahavruksh (giant tree). Make my murti from that.”

In the morning, he was astonished to see the huge tree growing on the seashore. With an axe, he personally chopped it down. Just then Vishwakarma, the architect of the devas and Vasudev Bhagwan, arrived  in the guise of two Brahmins. Vishwakarma carved the murtis of Shri Krishna, Balram and Subhadra.

Jagannathji is regarded as Orissa’s king and as Bhagwan of the Bhils and the poor. Seven days prior to Ashadh sud 2, the grand Rath Yatra festival, all the three murtis are brought out of the mandir in three gigantic raths (chariots). The raths are pulled by devotees. At the front of the first, the King humbly sweeps the street with a broom of gold. The raths are pulled only 3 km to the Shri Gundicha Mandir in Janakpuri. This is regarded as the house of Shri Krishna’s maternal aunt. Bhagwan rests here for seven days, as if recovering from an illness. During this period light food and herbal medications are offered. Then on Ashadh sud 2, the day of Rath Yatra, Bhagwan becomes well again. To celebrate his recovery, the Rath Yatrais celebrated and the murtis are returned to the Jagannath mandir.

The present mandir was built by King Anang Bhimdev in 1166. It is 161 feet high and 80 feet in length and breadth.
Nilkanth Varni visited Jagannath Puri in 1797. As in Badrinath, the pujaris here were also drawn by His divinity. They offered Him Jagannathji’s thal. During the Rath Yatra on 26 June 1797, the priests requested Him to sit on Bhagwan’s rath! The king, too, realised Nilkanth’s divine personality. He stayed six months and six days in Puri.

As a point of interest, the English word ‘Juggernaut’ is derived from Jagannath. During colonial rule, the English mis-pronounced Jagannath and this combined with Jagannathji’s huge rath, led to the coining of a new noun for a large rath-like articulated vehicle, the juggernaut.

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